The Cleveland Browns have their work cut out for them this Sunday as they take on the Indianapolis Colts. For Cleveland to earn a victory they must achieve two important goals throughout the game. The Browns offense must score touchdowns to keep up with or outscore the Colts, and the defense must slow down Andrew Luck.

Here are some key matchups to look out for throughout the game:

Isaiah Crowell/Terrence West vs Colts D-Line: The Cleveland Browns need to get the run game going. It was inconsistent the last four games, racking up 170 yards vs Cincinnati, 58 yards vs Houston, 162 yards vs Atlanta, and 74 yards vs Buffalo. When posting over 100 yards, the Browns ran to victory, but received double digit losses when the ground game struggled. Fortunately, Indianapolis surrenders 107.8 rushing yards per game. Crowell and West must be productive in order to control the clock. This will help manage the game and keep the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands. Also, if Cleveland efficiently runs the ball, it will open up the play action and the deep ball. Enter Josh Gordon.

Josh Gordon vs Colts Cornerbacks: Indianapolis will be without their top cornerback, Vontae Davis. He is still dealing with lingering concussion symptoms and has been ruled out. Davis hasn’t allowed a touchdown all season. After he left the Washington game, back up Josh Gordy gave up a 42 yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson. The loss of Davis should benefit the speedy Josh Gordon, who has racked up 195 yards on 15 receptions in two games. The wide out should put up big numbers against a weak Colts defense. Although his stats are stellar, Gordon must get on the same page as Brian Hoyer in order to achieve success.

Brian Hoyer vs Colts Pass Coverage: The Colts give up 257 yards per game through the air. Although he has not regularly put up huge numbers, Hoyer should this Sunday. Hoyer has registered three 300 yard games, in which he owns a 2-1 record. Keep in mind though, in his last three games, Hoyer has thrown just one touchdown to six interceptions as well as completing just over 50% of his passes in that span (61/120). For Cleveland to win the game, Hoyer has to play well and not turn the ball over. Luckily the Browns are playing at home, where Hoyer has a 90.1 passer rating as opposed to 70.1 on the road.

Andrew Luck vs Cleveland Secondary: Andrew Luck is one of the best young rising stars in the league. Currently, the Colts are ranked first in points per game (31.8) thanks to Luck’s arm. He is first in the league with 4,011 yards, including 62 completions over 20 yards. The quarterback has 34 touchdowns, ranked second in the league, and just 11 interceptions in 491 pass attempts. Although Andrew Luck is a very talented quarterback, he faces a tough challenge against a respectable Cleveland defense. The Browns lead the league with 17 interceptions and rank ninth in points allowed per game (20.4). Indianapolis hasn’t faced a top ten pass defense since week one, when they scored 24 points.

T.Y. Hilton vs Joe Haden: T.Y. Hilton is Andrew Luck’s favorite wide receiver amd he leads the Colts in receptions (68) and yards (1,145). Hilton’s speed and evasiveness make him a serious deep threat. Joe Haden will be responsible for keeping T.Y. Hilton in check. Haden has been impressive over the past five weeks, holding Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, and Sammy Watkins to just one touchdown. Haden has recorded an interception in each of the past three games. The Pro-Bowl cornerback should add to his team leading 14 passes defended.

Former Browns vs Dawg Pound: Former Browns Trent Richardson and Joshua Cribbs have both promised Dawg Pound leaps if they score a touchdown. Richardson is unlikely to reach the end zone, but Cribbs stands a good chance to score. If Cribbs jumped into the stands he should be welcomed with open arms while T-Rich will experience a hostile environment. Another former Brown, D’Qwell Jackson, returns to Cleveland as well. The linebacker was cut after eight seasons in Cleveland and is out for revenge. Expect a big statement game for the Colts’ leading tackler (101 tackles).

-Max Gold

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